The Shanty Too: over 45 years of tradition

Folks who revisit The Shanty Too in St. Francisville feel right at home because the new owner, Marcia Willis, has kept much of the store the same to honor the former proprietor, her late friend Fay Daniel.
Located in the century-old Wisteria cottage on Ferdinand St. in the town’s historic district, the Shanty Too is the town’s oldest mercantile emporium. The delightful shop stocks antiques, apparel, gifts, gourmet foods and fancy goods, and is full of handmade quality artisan gifts such as soaps made in St. Francisville, jewelry (sterling and 14k gold filled), and birdhouses made by local carpenters.

Owner Marcia Willis is dressed in The Shanty Too’s popular FLAX linen clothing line.

Owner Marcia Willis is dressed in The Shanty Too’s popular FLAX linen clothing line.

The Shanty Too recently started stocking its artisan gourmet salsas, preserves, jellies, pickles, relishes, and sauces.
“We’re also negotiating to soon bring in some pottery pieces from a local potter who has been in the business for about 40 years – just about as old as our store,” said Willis.
In everything she does, Willis tries to keep the store as Daniel would have wanted. “She loved holidays and went all out for decorations,” said Willis, a feature she carries on in the shop.
Daniel was also known to serve hand-dipped ice cream in the summers, but the store had not carried the treat for the last 8-10 years. Willis’ first plan for the store as the new owner was to bring back the ice cream tradition. In its sweet shop, the store serves a wide variety of flavors from Ben & Jerry’s, Häagen Dazs, and City Gelato, which is made in Baton Rouge.
For 15 years the store has carried proprietary truffles hand-dipped with Belgian chocolate, and customers can enjoy Coke products in glass bottles along with other beverages. One corner of the shop is dedicated to “Memory Lane Candies,” and there’s something for a sweet tooth of any age.
Customers seek out other tried-and-true products Daniel carried for years, such as the Claire Burke line of home fragrance products. The Claire Burke Original scent, 50 years old this year, has been sold at The Shanty Too since its 1972 beginnings. The store has also carried products from the Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory for the 25 years the company has been in business, and many customers frequent the store for the FLAX linen clothing line sold nowhere else in the area.

A trip to The Shanty Too wouldn’t be complete without a sweet treat.

A trip to The Shanty Too wouldn’t be complete without a sweet treat.

Willis is a familiar and welcome face to customers as she worked in the store for Daniel in recent years. In late 2015, Daniel, who had been widowed just a year before, found herself battling yet another attack of the cancer she had fought for 18 years. She called Willis and asked her to help keep the store open since she was unable to keep up in her declining health. What began as a favor to her friend turned into an emergence from retirement.
Willis recalled, “Fay said, ‘I’ll teach you everything you need to know about retail,’ and she did.”

Details:

The Shanty Too, 11770 Ferdinand St., St. Francsiville, LA 70775; 225-635-4127; website: shanty-too.business.site; Facebook: TheShantyToo; Sun-Sat 9:30-5:30
Willis began helping at the store in January 2016, and, after suffering a fall at home, Daniel began a convalescence that ended in her death in February 2016. Daniel’ mother, Jiré Lambert, now an octogenarian, inherited the store but was unable to run the store herself, even with Willis’ help. She soon asked if Willis would be interested in buying the store.
The more Willis thought of the proposal, the more she understood that Daniel would have wanted her to carry on her legacy. Early in 2017, Willis purchased The Shanty Too with her daughter and son-in-law, Wendy and Michael Breland. Willis takes care of daily operations, but she said her partners have been a tremendous help behind the scenes.
Now in its 45th year of business – and soon approching the 46th – The Shanty Too offers clothing, gifts, and home decor ranging from funky to formal – a unique store that must be experienced firsthand, with Willis now at the helm, carrying on her friend’s memory and motto: “Often imitated, but never surpassed.”

 

A bit of history of the Shanty Too and two friends
Born in Mississippi and raised in the Greater New Orleans area, Marcia Willis could not have imagined when she arrived in the Felicianas in 1972 as a special editions editor for three local

The historic building The Shanty Too has occupied since 1990 once housed the Perkins Ford Motor Company.

The historic building The Shanty Too has occupied since 1990 once housed the Perkins Ford Motor Company.

newspapers that she would build a life there. With a B.A. in journalism, a bachelor’s degree in history, a master’s with a concentration in secondary education (history and language arts), and an education specialist certificate, she certainly never dreamed she would one day work in retail, much less own St. Francisville’s oldest mercantile emporium. Life, however, is notorious for its unexpected turns.
Around the same time Willis was getting a feel for life in the Felicianas, Fay Daniel returned home to St. Francisville from college. Daniel’s mother Jiré Lambert had purchased a shotgun building and opened a shop called The Shanty that was only open on weekends. Daniel soon had the idea to open a similar shop in town, and so The Shanty Too Antiques, Gifts and Fancy Goods was born in 1972.
Shortly after The Shanty Too opened, Willis met Daniel while taking pictures for a special edition piece. “I went into her store and loved it,” she said, and a friendship that spanned four decades was born
A building at what is now the site of The Francis Southern Table and Bar housed The Shanty Too for a number of years before Daniel and Lambert moved the enterprise to the century-old Wisteria cottage on Ferdinand Street. In 1990, Daniel and her husband Danny purchased a building a few doors down and moved the business to its current location, a historic brick building that once housed the Perkins Ford Motor Company.
Daniel, her husband, and her mother at one time ran four locations of The Shanty Too in Natchez, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and St. Francisville. Today, only the original store remains, but customers still came from all over to visit the iconic shop run by a woman who was larger than life.
“Fay was a real business person,” said Willis. “She was one of the original people to spearhead the St. Francisville Merchant Association. She was also one of the co-founders of Christmas in the Country, originally started as a merchant’s open house and showcase to help keep tax dollars and purchasing power at home.”
While Daniel made a mark on the business community with her store, Willis made her mark in a different way, editing several local newspapers and teaching school. She’d had a good run in her careers, and in 2014 she finally retired. Or so she thought.
Willis respected and cared for her late friend enough to want to keep her memory alive, and with her reopening of the shop, that’s just what she has done.

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